College Isn’t Always Happy

When you’re in high school, college is the Promised Land. If you’re a good student, you’re rewarded for the years you’ve spent in the dingy, linoleum-tiled halls of high school with the opportunity to attend college. You’re told that it’ll all be worth it, because college is “so much better.” In fact, you’re even told that it’ll be “the best four years of your life.”

There’s pressure to be happy at college, and with the sunny weather and pretty green lawns in Claremont, that pressure is even greater. It’s a rare thing to hear someone vocalizing their dissatisfaction with college life, other than the usual complaints about incessant midterms and endless pages of reading. Admitting that you’re not actually having the best time of your life can feel intimidating. After all, everyone else seems so … happy.

The reality is that college can be pretty lonely, especially for first-years. Finding like-minded people who understand your jokes and will eat meals with you is a lot more difficult than people make it out to be. As much as high school sucks, most people have a solid place—friends, a sense of belonging, some sort of identity—established by their senior year. Leaving that familiarity and coming to a terrifyingly new environment should, and does, cause some emotional strain.

When contrasted with the expectations of college, these feelings are hard to deal with. Coming to college blinded by daydreams of semi-independence, tree-lined streets and the wonderful, intelligent friends you’re sure to find can make the transition that much worse. It doesn’t help that the culture at Claremont is focused on being happy and carefree. There’s definitely pressure to live up to that.

So, when the realization that you’re not yet at home here comes, it hits hard. Maybe it bothers you that you no longer have a support system of friends and family readily available, or that sometimes you eat lunch alone, or that everyone else seems so smart while you’re drowning in homework. Whatever it is, it’s daunting to talk openly about it when no one else seems to feel the same way, when you’re not supposed to feel that way.

This is what they don’t tell you when you’re in high school, and what you know now. College isn’t your salvation from the hellish years of high school. It may or may not be the best four years of your life. As tempting as it is to believe in the shiny illusion of the smiling students plastered on college brochures, no place or situation can ensure happiness.

Even if how you feel doesn’t correlate at all with your expectations, your feelings aren’t wrong. Despite the pretty surface of the Claremont Colleges, not everyone is completely content. It’s OK to say you’re sad, lonely or disappointed. Chances are, someone else feels the same way.

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